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The old adage that 'an Englishman's home is his castle' is only partially true and the impact of planning law on a property owner's rights can be far-reaching – even extending to limiting the right of occupation.
This is particularly an issue in areas of the country where there are many holiday homes, as there are often planning restrictions that forbid their occupation all the year round or as principal residences. Although the owners of the homes may ignore them, they are enforceable and, as a recent Court of Appeal ruling shows, it is advisable to take them seriously.
The case concerned a number of properties that lay within a country park. They were subject to a planning condition requiring that they be used for holiday purposes only and must not be occupied as a person's sole or main residence. All or most of the residents had signed licence agreements that reflected the condition's terms.
A number of occupants had, however, begun to occupy the homes year-round. The local authority issued enforcement notices that forbade such use and an appeal by residents to a government planning inspector was later dismissed. Retrospective planning permission was also refused and their judicial review challenge to the inspector's decision was struck out by a judge.
In dismissing one resident's appeal against the latter decision, the Court rejected arguments that the handling of the case had been procedurally unfair. The inspector had carefully considered all the issues, including the human right of residents to respect for their homes. Permission to introduce fresh evidence was also refused.